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Iranians Remember Former President Rafsanjani


In this Dec. 21, 2015 file photo, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani waves to journalists as he registers his candidacy for the elections of the Experts Assembly, in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Iranians are remembering former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

He died on Sunday after suffering a heart attack. He was 82 years old.

State television suspended programming to announce the death. It said Rafsanjani spent his life working in support of “Islam and revolution.”

Rafsanjani served as Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997. He also advised Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Presidency and political career

During Rafsanjani's presidency, Iran worked to rebuild its economy. It was in ruins following an eight-year war with Iraq.

Rafsanjani’s presidency led to a series of cautious reforms. The changes increased some freedoms, especially in Iran's media.

Over time, however, Rafsanjani's political influence fell sharply. After his presidency, Rafsanjani lost a bid for a seat in parliament. In 2005, he sought a second term as president. But he lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a conservative. And in 2013, he attempted – but was denied – another term as president. At that time, Iran’s powerful Guardian Council barred him from the ballot.

Rafsanjani’s influence suffered, in part, because conservatives criticized his reform efforts, especially his outreach to the West.

A speech Rafsanjani made in 2009 further alienated him from conservatives and Iran’s military. In the speech, Rafsanjani called for greater personal freedoms. At the time, the government was taking steps to punish Iranians protesting the results of presidential elections.

Legacy

In 2013, Rafsanjani’s political protégé, Hassan Rouhani, won the presidency. Rouhani asked Rafsanjani to oversee planning for direct nuclear talks with the United States.

On Monday, the president praised Rafsanjani. He said the former leader had more wishes for the country, and that up until his death he showed people the right path.

"We are all hopeful to continue his path," Rouhani said.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

VOA’s Lou Lorscheider and Chris Hannas wrote this story. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted their report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

bidn. an attempt to win, get, or do something

cautious – adj. careful about avoiding danger or risk

alienate – v. to make someone unfriendly towards you

protégé – n. a young person who is taught and helped by someone who has a lot of knowledge and experience

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